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Tag: Mandatory Reporting

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Howard Geck Arrested for Failing to Report Child Abuse

dexter hensley

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In May 2019, Dexter Hensley, a member of Jasper Apostolic United Pentecostal Church in Jasper, Indiana, was arrested and charged with inappropriately touching minor children, ages 5-9. The Dubois County Free Press reported at the time:

Dexter Hensley, 61, is charged with allegedly touching children inappropriately. The incidents allegedly occurred at the Jasper Apostolic Church — the Jasper Christian Academy is also located at that address –sometime between 2012 and 2015. The victims were between 5 and 9 years old at the time of the incidents.

Hensley was arrested Monday; his home address in the court documents was listed as the church’s address on Hillside Drive in Jasper.

Court documents indicated Pastor Howard Geck at Jasper Apostolic Church found out about the alleged actions after they occurred.

An investigation into Hensley was opened while police were investigating a different allegation. During a forensic interview, the victim revealed incidents that had occurred at the church five to six years ago involving Hensley.

The victim also told police that about two years ago she had learned about incidents involving her sisters and had taken those concerns to her guardian. Court documents indicated the guardian reported the victim’s allegations to Geck at the church and was told that the issue had been taken care of.

Police spoke with the guardian, who stated the issue had been reported to the pastor, according to court documents.

Today’s news brings a not-so-shocking story about Howard Geck, pastor of Jasper Apostolic. Authorities allege that Geck was told about Hensley’s abhorrent behavior and did nothing. By Indiana law, “anyone who has reason to believe a child has been abused must report it to law enforcement or DCS.”  Geck allegedly kept Hensley’s crimes to himself, and now he finds himself facing a class B misdemeanor — failure to report.

Channel 14 News reports:

Jasper Police say they learned Pastor Howard Geck was made aware of the allegations two-years ago, but failed to report them to authorities.

Geck was charged this week with failure to make a report, which is a class B misdemeanor. By Indiana law, anyone who has reason to believe a child has been abused must report it to law enforcement or DCS.

“The law requires that any individual, anyone, it’s not confined to teachers or pastors or doctors,” explains Dubois County Deputy Prosecutor Stephanie Smith. “It is any adult that has a reasonable suspicion that there’s been some kind of abuse. Whether it’s physical abuse, or sexual abuse, or neglect of a child needs to report it.”

The Dubois County Prosecutors Office is currently offering an amnesty program. From now until the end of July, anyone who has previously failed to report, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have happened, can do so without being charged.

I have long argued that one of the firsts steps authorities should take in combatting child abuse is to arrest AND prosecute clergymen who failed to report allegations of abuse. When preachers face the likelihood of criminal prosecution, jail time, and loss of reputation, maybe, just maybe, they will do the right thing. It is unlikely that the good pastor will spend any time in the pokey, but perhaps the Dubois County prosecutor’s shot across the bow is enough to put fear into the hearts of local preachers. I have no doubt that Geck is not the only preacher sitting on allegations and confessions of sexual misconduct.  It’s time to air the dirty laundry in Dubois County, Indiana.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastors Ken Engelking and Scott Nelson Accused Of Criminal Behavior

pastor scott nelson
Pastor Scott Nelson

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Several women have come forward, alleging that Ken Engelking, executive pastor of Morningstar Community Church in Salem, Oregon, senior pastor Scott Nelson, and several other men committed crimes by either sexually assaulting them or not reporting alleged criminal behavior by church staff and members to legal authorities, choosing instead to cover-up the crimes. The following story is  sordid tale of sexual misconduct by so-called men of God and a church’s systematic cover-up of their crimes.

Lauren Hernandez and Capi Lynn, reporters for Statesman Journal, write:

“Sexual immorality” was the reason cited when longtime Pastor Ken Engelking resigned in January from Morning Star Community Church in Salem.

Four women had come forward the previous spring with allegations against Engelking, two other former church staff members and a member of an affiliated church.

In a 23-page annotated letter to the Morning Star board of directors, the women chronicled accusations of an abusive, adulterous relationship involving Engelking, and sexual assault and rape by three other men over more than 20 years, including as recently as 2010.

The church sought legal counsel, then hired a private investigator to look into the allegations. Nine months later, the board asked Engelking to resign.

Morning Star leaders declined to be interviewed for this story. In response to questions from the Statesman Journal, the board of directors provided a written statement detailing the allegations.

The statement offered an apology: “We are deeply sorry that anyone has ever experienced hurt, abuse, or felt unheard while under our care.”

….

The women’s letter describes a pattern of cover-up and patriarchal pressure inside the church started in 1982 and still led by Senior Pastor Scott Nelson.

In each case, the women said they were silenced by Nelson and other church leaders, pressured to not report what happened to them or do anything that could tarnish Morning Star’s image.

The church’s attorney said that “despite the view of some, these events are not part of a systemic culture or cover-up.”

One woman, in her 30s at the time, said she was told by a church leader that it was her fault she was raped because she had been flirting and wearing a tank top. A 15-year-old girl, when she confided to Engelking that she hadn’t told her parents about her assault, said he encouraged her to keep it secret.

The women say none were offered outside counseling or support after bringing forth the allegations.

Members of the clergy are mandatory child abuse reporters in Oregon. Any person younger than 18 is unable to give consent under Oregon law, so any sexual activity is considered abuse and must be reported.

But neither Engelking nor Nelson reported the incident involving the 15-year-old, not at the time it allegedly happened in 1994 or when it was detailed in the letter last year. There is no statute of limitations on reporting laws.

The women sent their letter in April 2017 to the five members of the all-male church board, including Keizer Police Sgt. Bob Trump and Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron.

Trump, as a police officer, is a mandatory reporter, but he did not report the abuse alleged in the letter. While Trump continues to serve on the board, Cameron told the Statesman Journal he resigned in May after the letter was received and the investigation launched.

The Statesman Journal found no reports of abuse filed by members of Morning Star or its board members with Salem Police or in Marion County court records.

Nelson, Engelking and Trump declined to comment.

The criminal statute of limitations has passed for all but one of the alleged assaults.

….

Engelking had been a pastor at Morning Star for 31 years when asked to resign.

Two other alleged perpetrators, including one accused of rape, were allowed to quietly leave the church without repercussions. One, a youth pastor, was later ousted from a second Salem church, which determined he was involved in an inappropriate relationship.

The fourth alleged perpetrator was a member of Mike Silva International, which sponsored a 2010 mission trip to Columbia that included Morning Star members. The alleged rape was referred by Morning Star to the Silva ministry because it headed the mission, according to the board’s statement.

Silva is a director on Morning Star’s board.

….

When Nelson announced Engelking’s resignation, he said church leadership took what it considered “appropriate action” in the mid-1990s when the first allegations were made.

But it was clear after the 2017 independent investigation and “after much prayer, fasting, tears and meetings with deep sorrow” that Engelking had to resign, Nelson told his congregation Jan. 14.

He also told them he took “full responsibility for the fact that situations were not properly addressed all those years ago.”

After releasing a formal statement to the Statesman Journal, Nelson followed up with the congregation on Feb. 25, saying: “We did fail in many ways in our follow up and in our care.

“We don’t control what people think about us, we simply put our eyes on Jesus and we continue doing ministry,” he said. “Yeah, we’ve blown it, we’ve missed it, we failed.”

Each of the four women told the Statesman Journal their lives were forever changed by the alleged assaults. They said their subsequent relationships have suffered and they continue to require therapy.

….

The youngest alleged victim said she was 15 years old when an adult pastor intern first touched her by rubbing her thigh while on a bus ride back from a 1994 church camping trip.

He pressured her to lie to her parents and meet privately with him on at least two occasions. During one outing, he pressed his body against hers while teaching her how to play miniature golf.

One night, he snuck into her home while her parents were out of town, slipping through a sliding glass door entrance to her room, she told the board.

She said he tried to convince her multiple times to lay in bed naked with him, side by side. He told her he wouldn’t do anything to her, and that she was safe with him.

He allegedly got on top of her while she laid in bed, still clothed, and mimicked intercourse without penetrating her.

After he climaxed and left the home, she said she “felt sick.” She remembers getting out of bed, washing her sheets and blankets, and taking a shower.

“I hate that night,” she told the Statesman Journal.

She didn’t immediately tell her parents. But after confiding in a church friend, the friend told her that Nelson handed over the “problem” to Engelking.

Soon after, she received a call from Engelking. She said he told her the pastor intern was moving to California. When Engelking asked if she planned to tell her parents of the assault, she replied “no.”

“He said that was ‘fine,’ that he had dealt with it and we could leave it all behind us now,” she said.

The youth pastor was “immediately dismissed” when the assault was disclosed to church officials, according to the board’s statement to the Statesman Journal. The church described the alleged assault as “criminal sexual contact with a minor.”

….

pastor ken engelking
Pastor Ken Engelking

Please take the time to read the entire article here. Be prepared to weep over the injustice done to the victims. And then get angry, very angry over the fact none of these sexual predators or cover-up artists will be criminally prosecuted. I hope the victims will sue the church, forcing the congregation and its leaders to give an accounting of crimes and immoral behavior committed on their watch.

The Pastor as Gatekeeper and Why Evangelical Churches Continue to be Rocked with Scandals

gatekeeperAs the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, Evangelical churches have just as big a problem with sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct as Catholic churches do. Thanks to the internet and an increasing awareness of sexual abuse, people are now more willing to speak out, and if warranted, report their assaults to law enforcement. Some victims are turning to civil courts to extract justice from their abusers and those who facilitated a climate where sexual predators could prey with impunity. Churches and their leaders are learning that it is quite expensive to ignore or cover-up allegations of sexual impropriety.

I am convinced that we have yet to see the full depth and breadth of criminal conduct that has gone on behind the closed doors of countless Evangelical churches. As I think about the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, including twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, I am increasingly grieved over how little churches and pastors did to address allegations of sexual misconduct. Victims were routinely disbelieved or accused of lying. Why Deacon Bob would never do such a thing, Sally. Why are you lying? Sometimes, victims were believed but told to forgive their abusers. Jesus forgave you, Sally. Shouldn’t you forgive Pastor Billy Bob? Other times, predators were run out the church, and told never to come back. He’s gone now, Sally. It is time to move on. That what Jesus would want you to do. What rarely, if ever, happened was the arrest and prosecution of offending pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, and congregants.

I can only remember one instance where a predator was accused, arrested, and convicted of his crime, and this only happened after he was caught a second time sexually assaulting a teen boy.  Even then, after “justice” was served, he joined up with a new Evangelical church and is “faithfully” serving Jesus. As a pastor, I regularly attended pastor’s conferences and meetings. It was not uncommon to hear whispers and stories about this or that pastor being accused of sexual misconduct. I would hear stories about pastor so-and-so abruptly leaving his church, only to find out later that he was caught at a motel with a church teenager or was fucking the choir director’s wife. One pastor was having sex with his secretary in his church office every Saturday while devoted members were out knocking on doors, inviting people to come to church and hear their “godly” on-fire pastor preach.  He was run out of the church, but later surfaced, as Jack Hyles’ son David did, in another community busily “serving’ Jesus.

Years ago, a concerned congregant told me that an unmarried man who had been attending our church was inviting young boys to spend the weekend with him on his farm. I investigated the issue and concluded that the man was probably a pedophile. What did I do? I ran the guy out of the church. I angrily told him that I knew exactly what he was. I also called the pastor of another Evangelical church the man attended and told him about the allegations. He agreed that the man, who is now dead, was likely a pedophile. Both of us thought we had done our duty by protecting church children from a predator. However, neither of us reported it to law enforcement, knowing that doing so would embroil our churches in controversy and harm the reputation and “testimony” of our respective churches. I now know that I did not do all I could have and should have done.

There were other instances of allegations of sexual misconduct or physical abuse, where I reported matters to the appropriate authorities. Later in my ministerial career, a man confessed to me that he had viciously murdered his girlfriend. I immediately called the police, who I knew were looking for him, and he was arrested. The man is now serving a life sentence in an Ohio penitentiary. Early in my ministerial career, my father-in-law, with whom I worked with as assistant pastor, came to me and told me that a congregant had confessed to shaking his infant baby to death. At the time, the cause of death had been attributed to SIDS. I told my father-in-law that he should immediately report the crime to the police. He did, and the man was arrested and convicted of manslaughter.

child sexual abuseThe common thread running through the anecdotal stories above and current allegations/crimes is that often pastors serve as gatekeepers for their respective churches. Congregants are encouraged to bring ALL reports of sexual misconduct or other criminal behavior to their pastor. It is up to the pastor, then, to decide whether the authorities should be called. Keep in mind, pastors are not lawyers, nor do they have investigatory skills as law enforcement professionals do. Unfortunately, pastors are often treated as a jack-of-all-trades. Most Evangelical pastors are not qualified to provide competent, professional counseling to congregants, yet, countless congregants are counseled by pastors who know little more than to quote Bible verses. Pastors are often considered vast repositories of wisdom and advice. Few congregants ponder whether their trust is misplaced. When pastors hear of accusations that could tear their church asunder, their natural inclination is to protect their churches’ reputations, thinking that in doing so they are protecting God.

Pastors wrongly think that they and their churches are indispensable parts of their local communities. Why, if scandal rocked the church, it would ruin our “testimony,” pastors think. There are souls to be saved and chicken dinners to be served. And just like that, pastor rationalize keeping wraps on all sorts of sexual misconduct, including the sexual and physical abuse of children. Where, oh where, are pastors who are willing to sacrifice everything to stand along-side of victims of abuse? Is it not better for a church to close its doors than for it to silently stand silently by while sexual crime goes unpunished. No pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or congregant should be above the law. Yes, making allegations public can and will cause harm to churches and the families of abusers. But, the only way to stamp out sexual abuse in churches is for people in the know to be willing to report allegations to law enforcement and child protective services.

It is time for churches to take the gate keys away from pastors and other church leaders. It is time for congregants to be instructed to take their allegations to law enforcement and let them determine whether crimes have been committed. The duties of pastors are simple: preach, teach, and eat chicken dinner at potlucks. When pastors hear whispers of sexual misconduct that could be criminal in nature, they should not pass Go, nor should they collect $200. These men of God should IMMEDIATELY pick up the phone and call law enforcement (and if a police officer attends the church, he should NOT be the person to whom the alleged crimes are reported). Pastors shouldn’t investigate, call a board meeting, accuse the perpetrator, or pray about it. All of these things can wait until law enforcement has been contacted. The only people who matter are the victims. Yes, an allegation doesn’t equal guilt, but it not up to pastors and other church leaders to determine guilt; that’s for police and prosecutors to do.

Local prosecutors can help prod pastors and churches along by prosecuting them if they fail to report alleged sexual abuse. Many states consider pastors and church leaders mandatory reporters, who are REQUIRED to immediately report sexual abuse allegations; not investigate and then report, not pray and then report, not get your ducks in a row and then report; not huddle with church board and then report. Throwing a few pastors in jail for not reporting might help other pastors “see the light” concerning sexual abuse.

The days of covering up allegations of sexual abuse are over. Pastors and churches who ignore this, do so at their own peril. From jail time to million-dollar awards, pastors and churches are learning that not only did Jesus take a dim view of those who harm children, so do those of us who believe that children deserve protection from those who dare to prey on them in the name of God.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Michael Walker Charged With Failure to Report Abuse

pastor michael walker

Michael Walker, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama stands accused of “failing to report sexual abuse of a child.”

AL.com reports:

A Huntsville pastor is accused of failing to report sexual abuse of a child who allegedly was fondled by a now-former sheriff’s deputy.

Michael Walker, pastor of Southside Baptist Church, was released from the Madison County Jail on $500 bail early this morning, records show.

Walker failed to report abuse that Roland Campos, a former deputy, is accused of committing against a 12-year-old girl, police said.

“Investigators have since learned through follow-up investigation that the victim reported the abuse to Walker and he refused to notify law enforcement or (the Department of Human Resources),” Huntsville police Lt. Stacy Bates wrote in a news release. “The law requires anyone acting in a capacity such as Walker to report this type of alleged criminal activity.”

Police said Walker was made aware of the abuse in March. Campos was arrested in August on two felony counts of sexual abuse. He is free on bail.

Campos resigned amid a sheriff’s office internal investigation of the allegations. Huntsville police have handled the criminal case.

“Michael Walker is not guilty and looks forward to presenting his side in court,” Walker’s attorney, Jonathan Pippin stated in an email to AL.com.

What follows is an AL.com news article detailing the crimes of Roland Campos. Walker is accused of not reporting the abuse after the victim made it known to him.

The victim in a sexual abuse case against now-former Madison County sheriff’s investigator Roland Campos was 12 years old when the 63-year-old lawman fondled her, court documents allege.

Campos, a longtime sheriff’s investigator, resigned Friday just before he was booked into the Madison County Jail on two felony counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

Police have said the victim, a young girl, is a family member of Campos. Huntsville police Lt. Stacy Bates earlier this week told AL.com that HPD was called to investigate after the sheriff’s office was notified about the child’s allegations. The report was made Friday around 3 p.m., but the alleged abuse occurred months earlier, police have said.

About three hours after police were called, Campos resigned. He was a 10-year employee of the sheriff’s office, where he investigated white-collar crimes, like fraud and identity theft.

Campos was booked into the jail by 8 p.m. and released on $10,000 the next day.

“Anytime you have an employee that is involved in any criminal activity, it’s shocking,” Madison County sheriff’s Lt. Brian Chaffin said at a news conference earlier this week. “Not only is it shocking, it’s painful. We had a meeting this morning. You can see it on everybody’s faces. It’s never a good thing when one of your own ends up in jail. But, of course, we have to do our job and we’re going to continue to do our job.”

Campos isn’t the first person in his family to be charged with sex crimes. His son, also named Roland, was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole in 2014 for sodomizing a 5-year-old girl while he was reportedly dating the victim’s mother.

Campos’ brother, Russell Leland Campos, was charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 in 2011. Those charges were dropped in 2014 when the alleged victim in the case was unable to testify due to the “ongoing effects of psychological trauma.”

….

I wish more prosecutors would hold pastors and churches accountable for not following mandatory reporting laws. As story after story on this blog has shown, far too many “men of God” and churches hide abuse accusations, choosing to protect reputations over helping abuse victims hold their abusers accountable for their crimes.

Black Collar Crime: Prosecutor Refiles Charges Against Rowland Foster in The Death of His Granddaughter

rowland foster

Rowland Foster is the pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Believing that God alone heals the sick, Foster teaches congregants to pray and seek God’s divine intervention in their medical maladies. This belief has led to several deaths, including the pastor’s two-year-old granddaughter. Foster was charged in the death of his granddaughter, but last month the charges against him were dismissed. (Please see previous post on Rowland Foster.) Last Friday, prosecutors refiled charges against Foster.

The Reading Eagle reports:

Less than two weeks after a district judge dismissed the counts, Berks County prosecutors have refiled the charges against a pastor accused of failing to report neglect of his 2-year-old granddaughter who died of a treatable bacterial pneumonia.

The refiling was done Friday in District Judge Andrea Book’s office in Jefferson Township, but District Attorney John T. Adams said Monday that Book won’t hear the case against Rowland Foster. Adams said Book has agreed to step aside so another judge can hear the prosecution’s case.

Foster, 72, remains free pending his hearing, which has not yet been scheduled, Adams said.

Foster is charged with failure to refer child abuse to authorities in his role as pastor, which makes him a mandatory reporter under the child protective services law.

Foster is pastor for the Faith Tabernacle Harrisburg District, Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County. The nondenominational church eschews the use of medicine.

On Nov. 8 about 1 p.m., troopers, tipped off by a funeral director, said they responded to the Tulpehocken Township home and found Ella Grace Foster dead on the sofa, with her family in the same room.

At the April 19 hearing, which was packed with supporters of the pastor, Dr. Neil A. Hoffman, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, testified the child died of bacteria pneumonia and tracheitis, infections that almost certainly would have been cured with penicillin or a similar antibiotic. He said the need for medical intervention would have been obvious to any reasonable person at least a day or two before her death, and medicine administered even within hours of her death may have saved her.

Rowland’s attorney, Christopher A. Ferro of York, said investigators made that argument in hindsight with the benefit of the autopsy report, not on actual observations.

Furthermore, he said, there was no evidence to show “willful” failure to report neglect on Rowland Foster’s part.

Jonathan H. Kurland, chief deputy district attorney, argued that despite Rowland Foster’s religious beliefs, he is obligated under the state’s child abuse reporting law to report neglect or any other form of child abuse to ChildLine.

Updated

A December 18, 2017 Penn Live report states that the charge against Rowland Foster has been dropped.

Bruce Gerencser